« PreviousContinue »
Thankfully do we rest our eyes upon one cheering assurance as we close this review of a clouded theme. Human nature can not dispense with religion, having the hunger and thirst that crave the divine nutrition. Human societies, however alienated from the old types of faith, and however repelled by the conventional administrators of sacred instruction, gravitate to religion by the force of an organic tendency, creating more adequate forms, and installing more genial priesthoods. Whatever else perishes, religion survives. Mankind, in the maturity of their social state, find that they must part with their childish ideas, discredit the tales of the nursery, and exchange the toys that amused them for the implements of a responsible career. But the early lessons of integrity, the early reverence for truth, the germs of youthful friendship, and more than all, the impress of parental authority and goodness, remain, to develop and intensify through all ages,-preserving a bond with the past, giving a clue to the future, and furnishing the elements of a progressive religion, that perpetually throws back the horizon and expands the scene.
E. W. R.
The doctrine of the Resurrection is surrounded with many and great difficulties; and very varied and vague opinions are entertained upon the subject. But a doctrine upon which the apostles dwelt with especial emphasis should not be passed by, because obstacles are encountered in the treatment of it. Careful examination of what the Scriptures say, and a comparison of one passage with another, may do something towards settling this, as well as other points.
In investigating this subject, we need to understand precisely what is meant by the Resurrection ; and we need particularly to determine the time of entering upon the resurrection state ; and what Christ has to do with introducing the world into it.
That we may have clear and distinct views of the resurrection, we need to determine first, what is meant by death; for our views of the latter point, whatever they may be, will modify our views of the former. Whoever believes that the mental and moral powers of man cease to exist at death, and yet believes in a future existence of blessedness, must also believe that these powers are restored to life again. On the other hand, if one believes the soul immortal, he can not, of course, consistently believe that it will be restored to life, for his belief supposes that the soul's life never ceases to exist.
So far as can be determined from observation, death destroys “our earthly house," the physical powers; and more can not be determined in this way. There are many reasons from analogy and science for believing that the mental and moral faculties do not cease to exist at death ; but we can not now adduce these, nor need we, as the Scriptures teach us that “all live unto God.” 1 The Saviour's declaration that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had an existence, though dead, proves that their mental and moral powers were not destroyed, though their bodies had returned to dust, and though Christ had not then “abolished death." They were in the enjoyment of some kind of an existence, though they had departed from earth; and from this we conclude that the soul is immortal. And if it is, then it does not depend upon a resurrection for a mere existence after death, but lives on through the influence of those inherent qualities which God gave it, when he ushered it into being.
We may remark here, that all the evidence from analogy and science in proof of a future life goes to establish the doctrine of the soul's immortality, and not a future existence predicated of the Christian resurrection. Arguments from these sources fail when an attempt is made to press them into proving that all will live after leaving earth because Christ “ hath abolished death ; " they lack the link that is necessary to connect them with this truth.
We are thus prepared to determine, in a measure, what is not meant by the resurrection, and so far, prepared to understand what is meant by it.
The Greek word for resurrection is uváotugis; and this is
I Luke xx. 38.
2 Tim. i. 10.
derived from avlornut, which is compounded of úvá, up, and tomu, to place, to stand ; and means to stand, to rise, to rise up again; to exalt; to restore. It is evident from this that the word anastasis contains the idea of advancement, promotion, or exaltation ; and from the way in which the Saviour used the word in his reply to the Sadducees, and from other passages, we are led to the conclusion that the resurrection, in its widest import, means a life of peace and joy beyond the grave; and that it includes the great moral work that is to take place with every person, by which the soul rises, through human and divine agency united, from its state of moral imperfection at death to a “perfect man,” and becomes conformed to Christ's spiritual likeness.
The Saviour said, that "in the resurrection they are as the angels of God in heaven;"3 or, as Luke records it, “they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” 4
If by resurrection Christ meant simply the way, or means, or both, by which man is prepared for a future existence, or ushered into heaven, why did he not say, “After the resurrection they are as the angels?” And why did he say, “ They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection?” These forms of expression show that the resurrection means something different from a restoration to life : that it is something different from a Jacob's ladder, by which the inhabitants of earth climb up to heaven.
As this passage is often explained, the word resurrection is made an adjective, qualifying state understood, and would read thus: "In the resurrection state, they are as the angels of God in heaven.” As the word is not an adjective, any explanation that requires it to be so used is clearly erroneous.
If “in the resurrection they are as the angels of God,” it is obvious that the condition is an exalted one, when pared with the life on earth; and hence corroborates the definition we gave of the word resurrection, to which we were led by an examination of its derivation and
component parts. That the word resurrection is always used in its widest import in the Scriptures, as we have defined it, will not be expected. It is sufficient for our present purpose to
3 Matt, xxii. 30.
4 Luke xx. 36.
show, as we have endeavored to, that it has that meaning in the most important and particular explanation of the future state that Christ ever gave the world; and, when not used in its widest import, it is not employed in a sense that would militate against the definition given.
We come now to the second point in our inquiry, the time of entering upon the Resurrection.
Paul says that all shall be made alive in their own order; “Christ the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming ;" from which we conclude that those who had died before his coming, would then be made alive in (by or through the instrumentality of Christ.” And the time of the Saviour's “coming" can be determined by reference to a few passages, where that point was definitely presented. Christ said unto his apostles, “ Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come.” 5 On another occasion, after giving them a very particular account of the signs that would precede and attend their “coming," he said, * This generation shall not pass till all things be fulfilled.” 6
By comparing the language of Paul with what Christ said of the time of his coming, we arrive at the conclusion that all who died before the Saviour's resurrection, through him were made alive at his coming; and were then introduced into that happy state termed the resurrection. But it may be objected, that, according to the words of Christ,
even Moses showed at the bush, that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." 7 And it may also be objected, that Christ was not, in fact, the first, in order of time, that rose from the dead.
In reply to the first objection, it is sufficient to observe that any just rule of interpretation requires the words of the Saviour to be so explained as to harmonize with the declaration of Paul, that Christ “ hath abolished death." And this limitation would preclude the idea that these patriarchs had previously entered upon that happy existence, into which neither they nor others could enter except through Christ. They might have been in a state of existence even more desirable than earth, but it could not have been that exalted condition called the resurrection. In respect to the second objection, we should keep in mind the obvious but sometimes forgotten fact that a restoration to life, to dwell longer here on earth, is not the resurrection the apostles every where preached; it is not the Christian resurrection, which Paul believed in, and which he hoped the just and unjust would enjoy. The failure to notice this evident distinction has led expositors to assert that Christ was not the first that rose from the dead. Christ was the first who rose from the dead, and over whom death had “no more dominion.” Those who before him had been restored to life lived here, and, of course, died again, did not, like the Saviour, enter upon the resurrection immediately after being raised.
6 Matt. x. 23. Matt. xxiv. 34.
7 Luke xx. 37.
8 2 Tim. i. 10.
If these facts are kept in mind, we shall be more ready to allow that the expressions, “Christ the first-fruits,'*9 6 the first-born from the dead," 10 the first that should rise from the dead," 11 are to be understood in their most obvious import; and, if they are, then Christ was the first, in order of time, that rose from the dead to enter immediately into that state, where all shall be equal unto the angels. Paul said, “ I have hope toward God, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead," 12 which plainly shows that he did not suppose that any had “the pre-eminence” of the Saviour by having entered upon the resurrection before him. The error that some fell into in supposing that the resurrection was past,13 seems also to indicate that the apostles had not taught, that the patriarchs and others who had died were then in the enjoyment of the resurrection. And the declaration of Peter, that “ David is not ascended into the heavens,” 14 is directly opposed to such a view, and, it would seem, should settle this point beyond further controversy.
If we inquire what Christ has to do with introducing the world into the resurrection, it will aid in determining whether he was the first, in the order of time, that rose from the dead. The apostle says,
“ For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” Now if, by or
91 Cor. xv. 23. 10 Col. i. 18. 132 Tim. ii. 18. 14 Acts ii. 34.
11 Acts xxvi, 23.
12 Acts xxiv, 15.